Farmers Dismayed That USDA Delays Fair Practice Rule

Last fall these JBS Five Rivers' steers at the Kuner Feedlot would have entered the traditional JBS packing plant system. With the Fed Cattle Exchange there is a chance for some JBS Five Rivers cattle to be purchased by competing packers, aiding in price discovery for the beef industry.
Last fall these JBS Five Rivers' steers at the Kuner Feedlot would have entered the traditional JBS packing plant system. With the Fed Cattle Exchange there is a chance for some JBS Five Rivers cattle to be purchased by competing packers, aiding in price discovery for the beef industry.
(Wyatt Bechtel)

A rule designed to protect the legal rights of farmers who grow chickens and hogs for the nation's largest meat processing corporations, was delayed Wednesday by President Donald Trump's administration, halting by at least six months an initiative rolled out by President Barack Obama in his final days in office.

The rule was first proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010 but was met with resistance in Congress and by the meat processing industry. It was delayed until the USDA released it in December.

Scheduled to go into effect on April 22, the rule would make it easier for farmers to sue companies they contract with over unfair, discriminatory or deceptive practices. Currently, several court rulings have interpreted federal law as saying a farmer must prove a company's actions harm competition in the entire industry before a lawsuit can move forward. The rule eases that high burden of proof.

For years some chicken growers who enter long-term contracts with companies like Tyson Foods and Pilgrim's Pride have alleged the industry locks them into deals that fix their compensation at unprofitably low levels and forces them deeply into debt.

Alton Terry lost a federal lawsuit against Tyson Farms in 2010 after his contract to raise chickens was cancelled. He said it was canceled because he tried or organize farmers to protest company practices. He ended up filing for bankruptcy.

He said many rural farmers voted for Trump believing his pledge to drain the swamp in Washington of special interests would help them. They were counting on him to approve the new rule, he said.

"There was hope that something would get done and now we see that getting him in, we're having the same old story," Terry said. "The swamp creatures are collecting larger paychecks. Where's the draining part?"

Genell Pridgen of Snow Hill, North Carolina, stopped contracting with the meat companies after 18 years and now runs her family farm independently. She fears the rule will be killed.

"It's very disheartening," said Pridgen, a Trump voter. "It's really an injustice for farmers who've been waiting for many years."

Many farmers hope Trump's nominee for agriculture secretary, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, will act on their behalf, said Sally Lee, program director at the North Carolina-based Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, a nonprofit family farm advocacy group.

Farmer advocacy groups, including the National Farmers Union and The American Farm Bureau Federation, support the rule but trade groups for the poultry and pork industries are fighting it.

"With this extension notice, it is clear the administration has recognized this is a complicated and controversial issue with deep economic consequences for American poultry and livestock producers," said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown.

National Pork Producers Council President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Illinois, wants the rule withdrawn for good. He said it would reduce competition, stifle innovation and "provide no benefits to anyone other than trial lawyers and activist groups that will use the rule to attack the livestock industry."

 

Latest News

NCBA Reports On Q1 Voluntary Price Discovery Framework

NCBA president Jerry Bohn said a major trigger in negotiated trade data was tripped during the first quarter of 2021, as determined by the Live Cattle Marketing Working Group Regional Triggers Subgroup.

TSCRA Disaster Relief Fund Distributes Aid

Thanks to contributions from across the U.S., Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Disaster Relief Fund mailed checks totaling $112,750 to cattle raisers financially burdened by February’s Winter Storm Uri.

Retail Beef Sales Remain Strong During February

Sales of all food and beverage items during February were 11.8% higher than during February 2020, and the meat department was an above-average performer.

Land Grab or Climate Solution? President Biden Could Unveil '30 by 30' Plan Details Next Week

Details of a U.S. land and water related executive order could be unveiled soon. Known as the ’30 by 30’ plan, it would place 30% of U.S. lands and 30% of U.S. waters under federal jurisdiction by 2030.

Ranching by the Seat of Your Pants

Oregon rancher Alec Oliver was determined to return to ranching and working from horseback after he was paralyzed in a vehicle accident nearly a decade ago.

CRP ground rotator
Vilsack Hints at Possible CRP Changes Coming Soon with Biden's 30 By 30 Plan

CRP could be in focus again. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said this week that he thinks greater opportunities are coming for landowners to take less productive farmland out of production and place into CRP.